All addictions have the same basic symptoms. Obsession, compulsion, loss of control, and continued use in the face of negative consequences are all hallmarks of addiction. People can develop addictions to substances, behaviors or activities. Some of these behaviors or activities may be normal, everyday occurrences such as eating or shopping, which can make it much harder to determine if there is a problem with addiction.
There are several indicative behaviors that can identify a person as a shopping addict. Engaging in any “shopping binge” creates a feeling of euphoria or a “high” for the addicted individual. Addictions are two-pronged. On one end, the addiction is physical. The individual shops to get the rush of brain chemicals needed to feel high. On the other end, this type of addiction is psychological. The addict seeks to purchase items to help them cope with life, and intense anxiety is felt in the absence of their addictive activity. A shopping addict will engage in their addiction even when it’s become obvious that spending is against their own best interests.
As with all addictions, shopping becomes the person’s main way of coping with stress, to the point where they continue to shop excessively even when it is clearly having a negative impact on other areas of their life. As with other addictions, finances and relationships are damaged, yet the shopping addict feels unable to stop or even control their spending.
Reasons Behind Compulsive Shopping
Most causes for compulsive shopping are psychological. Generally, a person will be having emotions of loneliness, depression, feeling out of control in a particular area, and seeking to spend money in order to relieve the stress. Spending addiction is a symptom of flashing red-light warning sign that there are deep-rooted feelings one is trying to avoid facing. An addict indulges themselves in shopping to help numb those troubling feelings- for a while.
Some of the psychological conditions associated with compulsive shopping are:
- Emotional deprivation in childhood
- Inability to tolerate negative feelings, pain, loneliness, boredom, depression, fear, anger
- Need to fill an inner void – empty and longing inside
- Excitement seeking
- Approval seeking
- Genuinely impulsive and compulsive
- Need to gain control
To that end, some behaviors and emotions have been associated with as potential causes of shopping addiction, such as:
- A reaction to disappointment, stress, anger, or fear by shopping
- A feeling that one’s spending habits are out of control and are causing friction or conflict in one’s family, relationships
- Feeling a sense of euphoria as well as anxiety while shopping
- Experiencing a sense of getting away with something forbidden while shopping
- Feeling severe guilt or remorse about having gone shopping, especially if it contradicts promises made to one’s self or a loved one
- Buying things that are never or almost never used—in other words, buying for no reason other than to spend
- Lying about one’s extensive shopping habits to friends and family
- A preoccupation with credit cards and finances is built around how much one has spent, how much one will have to spend on shopping, and creative juggling of various accounts to make shopping possible.
Compulsive spending is sometimes hard to determine because almost everyone shops to some degree, but only about 6 percent of the U.S. population is thought to have these compulsive addictions. It thus should be noted that there are negative behaviors and reactions associated with shopping that lead to feelings of distress but that do not constitute a shopping addiction, compulsion, or disorder such as buyer’s remorse. However, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has regarded behavioral disorders like shopping addiction to be reasonable disorders because they have common conditions with other compulsive behaviors that do not feature a stimulus one puts into their body (i.e. drugs, alcohol, tobacco). These are A sense of arousal before going shopping followed by pleasure or gratification while shopping and a loss of arousal as well as experiencing feelings of remorse after shopping.
Shopping Addiction Treatment
Those suffering from a compulsive buying disorder can seek shopping addiction treatment from a treatment center, therapist, or psychologist despite the lack of a quantified, well-defined diagnosis since the underlying issues are indeed psychological.
Some suggestions for compulsive shopping treatment are:
- Reduce temptations
- Make lists before going to the store; buy what you need only
- Take a trusted friend
- Wait so many hours before purchase
- Do you need this or do you just want it?
- Develop other ways to handle emotions
- Develop fun things to do
- Learn to ride through urges and preoccupations
- Develop habits in stores